Seedtime and Harvest
THE GAME OF LIFE
"I can easier teach twenty what were
good to be done, than be one of the
twenty to follow mine own teaching."
With this confession off my mind, I will now teach you how to play the game of life. Life is a game and, like all games, it has its aims and its rules.
In the little games that men concoct, such as cricket, tennis, baseball, football, and so on, the rules may be changed from time to time. After the changes are agreed upon, man must learn the new rules and play the game within the framework of the accepted rules.
However, in the game of life, the rules cannot be changed or broken. Only within the framework of its universal and everlastingly fixed rules can the game of life be played.
The game of life is played on the playing field of the mind.
In playing a game, the first thing we ask is: "What is its aim and purpose?" and the second, "What are the rules governing the game?" In the game of life, our chief aim is towards increasing awareness - an awareness of things of greater significance; and our second aim is towards achieving our goals, realizing our desires.
As to our desires, the rules reach only so far as to indicate the way in which we should go to realize them, but the desires themselves must be the individual's own concern. The rules governing the game of life are simple, but it takes a lifetime of practice to use them wisely. Here is one of the rules:
"As he thinketh in his heart, so is
he." - Proverbs 23:7
Thinking is usually believed to be a function entirely untrammeled and free, without any rules to constrain it. But that is not true. Thinking moves by its own processes in a bounded territory, with definite paths and patterns.
"Thinking follows the tracks laid down in one's own inner conversations."
All of us can realize our objectives by the wise use of mind and speech.
Most of us are totally unaware of the mental activity which goes on within us. But to play the game of life successfully, we must become aware of our every mental activity, for this activity, in the form of inner conversations, is the cause of the outer phenomena of our life.
". . . every idle word that man shall speak,
they shall give account thereof in the day
For by thy words thou shall be justified,
and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."
- Matthew 12:36, 37
The law of the Word cannot be broken.
". . .A bone of him shall not be broken."
- John 19:36
The law of the Word never overlooks an inner word nor makes the smallest allowance for our ignorance of its power. It fashions life about us as we, by our inner conversations, fashion life within ourselves. This is done to reveal to us our position on the playing field of life. There is no opponent in the game of life; there is only the goal.
Not long ago, I was discussing this with a successful and philanthropic business man. He told me a thought provoking story about himself.
He said, "You know, Neville, I first learned about goals in life when I was fourteen, and it was on the playing field at school. I was good at track and had a fine day, but there was one more race to run and I had stiff competition in one other boy. I was determined to beat him. I beat him, it is true, but, while I was keeping my eye on him, a third boy, who was considered no competition at all, won the race."
"That experience taught me a lesson I have used throughout my life. When people ask me about my success, I must say, that I believe it is because I have never made 'making money' my goal: 'My goal is the wise, productive use of money'."
This man's inner conversations are based on the premise that he already has money, his constant inner question: the proper use of it.
The inner conversations of the man struggling to 'get' money only prove his lack of money.
In his ignorance of the power of the word, he is building barriers in the way of the attainment of his goal; he has his eye on the competition rather than on the goal itself.
"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."
- Julius Caesar: Act I, Scene II
As "the worlds were framed by the Word of God", so we as "imitators of God as dear children" create the conditions and circumstances of our lives by our all-powerful human inner words.
Without practice, the most profound knowledge of the game would produce no desired results.
"To him that knoweth to do good" - that is, knoweth the rules - and doeth it not, to him it is sin". In other words, he will miss his mark and fail to realize his goal.
In the parable of the Talents, the Master's condemnation of the servant who neglected to use his gift is clear and unmistakable, and having discovered one of the rules of the game of life, we risk failure by ignoring it. The talent not used, like the limb not exercised, slumbers and finally atrophies. We must be "doers of the Word, and not hearers only". Since thinking follows the tracks laid down in one's own inner conversations, not only can we see where we are going on the playing field of life by observing our inner conversations, but also, we can determine where we will go by controlling and directing our inner talking.
What would you think and say and do were you already the one you want to be? Begin to think and say and do this inwardly. You are told that "there is a rod in heaven that revealeth secrets," and, you must always remember that heaven is within you; and to make it crystal clear who God is, where He is, and what His secrets are, Daniel continues, "Thy dream, and the visions of thy head are these". They reveal the tracks to which you are tied, and point the direction in which you are going.
This is what one woman did to turn the tracks to which she had been unhappily tied in the direction in which she wanted to go. For two years, she had kept herself estranged from the three people she loved most. She had had a quarrel with her daughter-in-law, who ordered her from her home. For those two years, she had not seen or heard from her son, her daughter-in-law or her grandson, though she had sent her grandson numerous gifts in the meantime. Every time she thought of her family, which was daily, she carried on a mental conversation with her daughter-in-law, blaming her for the quarrel and accusing her of being selfish.
Upon hearing a lecture of mine one night - it was this very lecture on the game of life and how to play it - she suddenly realized she was the cause of the prolonged silence and that she, and she alone, must do something about it. Recognizing that her goal was to have the former loving relationship, she set herself the task of completely changing her inner talking.
That very night, in her imagination, she constructed two loving, tender letters written to her, one from her daughter-in-law and the other from her grandson. In her imagination, she read them over and over again until she fell asleep in the joyful mood of having received the letters. She repeated this imaginary act each night for eight nights. On the morning of the ninth day, she received one envelope containing two letters, one from her daughter-in-law, one from her grandson. They were loving, tender letters inviting her to visit them, almost replicas of those she had constructed mentally. By using her imagination consciously and lovingly, she had turned the tracks to which she was tied, in the direction she wanted to go, towards a happy family reunion.
A change of attitude is a change of position on the playing field of life. The game of life is not being played out there in what is called space and time; the real moves in the game of life take place within, on the playing field of the mind.
"Losing thy soul, thy soul
Again to find;
Rendering toward that goal
Thy separate mind."
- Laurence Housman